I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my thoughts on the recent Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R DSLR announcement including…
- Are you getting one?
- Which one?
- What’s the difference?
- Is this the Canon 5D IV
- Is it worth sticking it out with Canon vs jumping to Nikon or Sony?
I’ve also seen a lot of random rash statements online such as….
- Too late Canon I’ve already switched to Sony/Nikon.
- Canon marketing sucks. How does this camera fit into their line up?
- Canon loses.
Seeing that the Canon 5Ds /Ds R will not be released until June and Canon Marketing has seemingly done a poor job explaining the official stance on the 5D family line up there has been a lot of confusion and conjecture. Here is my personal opinion on the matter taking into account my 3 years of experience working in the online gear rental industry with BorrowLenses.
The Canon DSLR Hierarchy
In short the evolution of the top Canon DSLR product lines have been evolving as follows:
Photo: EOS 1Ds + EOS 1D => 1Dx
Video: New product branch with the 1D C
The 1D line has been and is being consolidated into the 1DX product. If you’ve been shooting Canon for a while you might remember that the 1Ds was the high end full-frame sensor camera used for commercial type work while the 1D was the high end sports and wildlife body with a faster burst mode. All of these use-types have been consolidated into one 1D body. The 1DX was released in March 2012 and then split again to include a 4K video solution with the 1D C in March 2013. Many people were angered with the 1D C release because it seemed to be the exact same camera as the 1D X, but with a firmware change that allowed 4K video. I’m sure it may be more than this, but that was the perception and only the Canon god Chuck Westfall could say publicly for sure.
EOS 5D III => EOS 5Ds + EOS 5Ds R + EOS 5D IV (?)
We seem to be in the midst of the next Canon product shift where the EOS 5D is being split into multiple models. When the 5D Mark II was released and included video it was a game changer that shook the industry. The trajectory of the 1D series forever changed and other manufacturers quickly started building up their product line to include video (and yes I know Nikon hit first with video with the D90). Around this time Nikon had made revolutionary improvement with sensors that allowed for unheard of light sensitivity with noise free images at ISO 4000. They focused on noise and less so on video. This is where the seesawing began to happen with Nikon making gains in one area and Canon falling behind in others. Canon made some improvements with noise and ISO in the 5D Mark III and at the same time Nikon launched the D800 with improved dynamic range in a 36 megapixel sensor. The seesawing continues with this next round of product releases.
Canon has countered by trying to attract customers with a need for high megapixel sensors namely 35mm users who lust after the likes of the D800/D810 or were itching for a medium format camera solution. In my opinion the 5Ds and 5Ds R are pure plays for medium format interested photographers who want greater lens options. The big unknown is how well the 50.6 megapixel sensor will handle low light, but by Canon’s own admission these cameras are not aligned to low light photography and all the example photos to date have been bright light situations. Also if you pay attention to rumor sites, the reports are that these cameras have been tuned for low ISO performance which speaks to studio type work.
Rumor sites have also been stating for sometime that the 5D series is being split into 3. The real successor to the 5D Mark III is due this August and is thought to have a lower megapixel sensor fine tuned for lower light situations (higher ISO) and video.
Which Camera Should I Buy?
First I’m not a gear flipper and I seemingly am more patient than most with my upgrades. I’m not ranting about Canon losing or falling behind Nikon or Sony. I’ve long held the opinion that photographers flip out too easily on incremental improvements versus truly revolutionary technology shifts. I still own and use a Canon 5D II. If I need to shoot a specific type of subject that requires improvements over what I own then I rent gear from BorrowLenses. I could have purchased a 5D Mark III when it was announced, but I didn’t think it was worth it at the time. I could have jumped ship to Nikon or Sony, but I have not because I know each manufacturer has product release cycles that are out of phase from each other. This amplifies the perception that one brand is being left behind while another announces an improvement to their products.
My advice is to buy the Canon EOS 5Ds and Canon EOS 5Ds R if you’re interested in medium format like images if you’re a low ISO shooter. Be warned you’ll need to ramp up on your storage and computing power. Those files will be large. Nikon users that jumped on the D800 bandwagon were hit hard by this. If you’re in the market for a camera that will perform better at at higher ISO with less noise then I’m betting the real EOS 5D IV or whatever Canon calls it is that camera you should be waiting for. Odds are I’ll be waiting for the next Canon body announcement to see if it’s the right camera that I should purchase.
What will push me to upgrade you ask?
Primarily my interest lies with improved dynamic range, better low light performance namely lower noise at higher ISO values, video recording options that are closer to the EOS 1D C body (1080 60p, 4K, etc.) and marginally higher resolution with better buffering. We’ll see if the real EOS 5D Mark IV fits the bill.
By the way the real showstopper of the announcement was the Canon 11-14mm f/4 lens. I’ll have my eye on that.